At the age of 68, Anne Stacy of Houston, Texas isn’t the oldest rider on this year’s AIDS/LifeCycle (that honor goes to an 86-year-old cyclist), nor did she travel the furthest (several people ventured all the way from China), but she may be one of the sweetest and most endearing moms to do the 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
“When my son did AIDS/LifeCycle last year, he called to say he wanted me to ride with him this year. I said ‘you’re nuts!’ We had done two-day rides together, but I couldn’t imagine doing a seven-day ride! Well, he signed me up anyway and once they sent me the shirt, I figured I needed to do it.”
Her son Gavin Houser, who finished his second AIDS/LifeCycle soon after moving to Los Angeles from Texas last year, has been living with HIV for eight years and says he’s much more fortunate than many other openly gay, HIV-positive guys.
“My mom has been there to help me through some of my darkest moments,” says Houser, 39. “Through it all she has never been anything but loving and supportive of me,” to which Anne replies, in a southern drawl, “I’m originally from Canada, not Texas. How can a mother have anything but love for their child?”
Of course, loving a son or daughter doesn’t typically extend to completing a seven-day bike ride with them.
“There were a few years that were tough for Gavin and me, before he got into recovery,” says Stacy, a grandmother to 3 kids from Gavin’s sister. “It was the two-day MS ride from Houston to Austin that helped us reconnect. There’s just something about the shared experience of biking that helped make our relationship even stronger. We did that ride for seven years before Gavin moved to L.A.”
This year, though, it’s not just the two of them riding together; they’re joined by Houser’s boyfriend, R.J. Pena, who is HIV-negative. All are members of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s team “Centerions.”
“We’re riding to support the Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s work to fight HIV stigma,” says Houser, “and to educate people about the value of PrEP. Before I met R.J., I faced the same kind of horrible discrimination many HIV-positive guys face. It’s tough, especially when you’re newly diagnosed, to read some of the shit people write on apps like Grindr.”
The trio are part of a community of nearly 3,000 AIDS/LifeCycle participants — from nearly every state in the union and 21 countries–who have raised $16.3 million to help end AIDS and care for those living with HIV.
How are the three of them holding up after Day 3 of the ride and having just finished the longest hill, affectionately known as Quadbuster?
“We made it!!” says Houser. “Not only do we still love each other, we all still like each other. Though, for a few minutes after riding into camp today, when we couldn’t find our gear truck…that was touch and go. But we were all really pumped to ride into camp today and are excited about Red Dress Day on Thursday!”
Houser and his mom will be wearing matching red dresses, designed by his nieces.
Queerty readers can save $55 on registration for next year’s AIDS/LifeCycle by using discount code RIDEWITHUS at www.aidslifecycle.org
Jim Key is Chief Marketing Officer of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Follow him on Twitter at @JamesDKey.